In the post below, Derek shows how the team’s playoff odds dropped 20% during the five game debacle of a losing streak, making the M’s now a 1 in 20 shot to win either the division or the wild card. They’re now 7 games behind a good Angels team for first place in the A.L. West. They’re only 3 games out of the wild card, but the other teams in contention for that single playoff spot are the loser of the Detroit/Cleveland battle, the Yankees, and the A’s. You’re not going to find anyone with any kind of rational thinking that believes the M’s are better than all those teams.
In reality, the pecking order of the American League has essentially been established. The Red Sox are the best team in baseball, and the Yankees, Indians, Tigers, and Angels are all a step or so behind them in the second tier in the A.L. The third tier features the A’s at the top, followed by the Mariners, Twins, and Blue Jays.
No matter how you want to look at it, the best this team could realistically argue for is being the 6th or 7th best team in the American League, depending on how you feel about Oakland’s ability to win with the back of a rotation of Chad Gaudin, Lenny DiNardo, and Joe Kennedy and a team that still can’t hit.
As noted, mathmatically, it’s not very likely that the 6th or 7th best team in the league can overcome the a significant deficit to pass a better team in front of them in the standings. The M’s playoff chances are, officially, a longshot. A 10% chance of making the playoffs isn’t a death knell, but it’s not exactly reason for optimism either. The M’s are, again, at a crossroads. The last time they faced a win-or-fold-your-tents series of games, they went on a tear and closed the gap in the division.
The M’s are now back where they started, however. Tomorrow, they begin a homestand that brings a bad Pirates team and a bad Reds team in for back-to-back series before Boston rolls into town. Essentially, the Mariners have 3 weeks to salvage their season. In the final 19 games before the all-star break, they have a lot of winning to do in order to make up enough ground to really consider themselves contenders in the second half.
If the Mariners are serious about getting back in this thing, there are some things they can do to put a better team on the field for the next three weeks and give themselves a better chance. We’ve talked about most of these, but consider this an official request.
1. Promote Adam Jones from Tacoma and stick him in the line-up everyday.
He’s a better player today than half the guys in the line-up, a kid who can hit for average and power while playing terrific defense on a team that badly needs another quality defensive outfielder. Raul Ibanez simply can’t cover enough ground to be a credible option in Safeco Field anymore, and the Mariners would gain a huge competitive advantage by sticking Jones in left field and splitting RF/DH duties between Raul Ibanez, Jose Guillen, Jose Vidro, and Ben Broussard. Mike Hargrove is systematically opposed to platoons, but in the interest of winning ballgames, he should simply get over his preconceived biases and do what’s best for the team. By installing Jones as the everyday left fielder and using the worn down veterans to give each other frequent offdays, the team would instantly improve it’s offense, defense, and bench. It’s a no-brainer of a move, the kind of talent addition that most teams only dream about getting from a mid-season acquisition. And the M’s don’t even have to make a trade to pull this one off. Show some cajones and make the move. Give us Adam Jones in the majors tomorrow night.
2. Stick Ryan Feierabend in the rotation.
In an ideal world, Feierabend could still be in Tacoma, but as sad as it is to say, right now, he’s one of the five best starting pitchers in the organization. To create a spot for him, shift Jeff Weaver to the bullpen to pitch mop-up work. At this point, things like contract and veteranness just can’t matter in the decision making process – today, Feierabend is a better pitcher than Jeff Weaver, and the M’s can’t afford to have a better pitcher sitting in the bullpen while the M’s lose another game where Weaver takes the mound.
3. Re-organize the bullpen.
Brandon Morrow’s command problems have finally caught up with him, and his velocity was down at the end of the road trip as well. He walked a high wire act through the first two months of the season, but let’s be honest, a guy who walks more than a batter per inning simply can’t be counted on in high leverage situations. With Sherrill and Putz, the M’s have a lights out pair of relievers who can handle the 8th and 9th innings. Hand the 7th inning over to Eric O’Flaherty and Sean Green, and let Morrow hang out in the low leverage situations with Jason Davis and Jeff Weaver. If his velocity doesn’t come back soon, stick him on the DL and give his arm a rest.
Three simple moves that allow the team to re-align their assets as an organization and put the team in the best possible situation to win ballgames. If it still isn’t enough to make up ground in these last 19 games before the all-star break, then you have your answer on whether you’re a contender or not, and you can commence trading off of the veterans.
In the next three weeks, the M’s have one final chance to show us they’re serious about winning, and they’re willing to step on some players toes in order to do so. Here’s to the organization sacking up and making some calls that might not be popular with some highly paid veterans, but put a better team on the field while they try to salvage the rest of the 2007 season.